Progressive metallers Minimus are one of Vermont's under-the-radar hard-rock acts, but that status might change with the release of their latest eponymous EP. Comprising most of the members of local "smartcore" legends Five Seconds Expired, the band's biomechanical rhythms and twisting riffs stand out among the atonal thrashers crowding the underground. Loaded with impressive musicianship, Minimus features hypnotically heavy grooves that will wow head bangers and math geeks alike.
Drummer Gary Williams is in his usual fine form, serving up precision tom blasts and snare cracks in an aggressive marriage of intensity and discipline. Guitarist Josh Cooper maintains a steady supply of stun-gun riffs that run from the sludgy to the serpentine. Vocalist Shaun Varney has long handled bass duties for the band, but here he takes a break from the low end to concentrate on singing. While his performances are solid, he hasn't fully adjusted to the new role.
There are a mere three tunes on this disc, but they each pack plenty of wallop. Opener "Man" strides forward with a stinging guitar figure before settling into a riff that brims with calculated fury. Cooper's Rush-esque arpeggios in the track's mid-section create tension while pulling the listener further into the group's sonic web.
The production is strong, too; every instrument is well represented, with equal emphasis given to the vocals. My only complaint is that some of the arrangements overstay their welcome. Bands such as Tool have mastered the art of hypno-metal, but Minimus have yet to perfect their own version.
"Rising" opens with a gently sinister bass line, augmented by sustained guitar notes that coil around the main figure like electric tendrils. Unfortunately, one of the riffs is disturbingly similar to Soundgarden's "Outshined." So similar, in fact, that I wonder how the band failed to notice. The song finds its bearings soon enough, however, before closing in a hailstorm of double-time drums and frenetic guitar work.
The EP's final track, "Say," is probably the most solid composition here. Featuring a relentless central riff that scuttles like a robotic spider, the song makes its menacing presence known before ending abruptly.
In a town where jam, funk and jazz comprise the lion's share of most people's musical diets, Minimus are a refreshing change of pace. Here's hoping they manage to cough up a full-length in the near future.